Speaking Notes: Ambassador Anil Sooklal, South Africa’s BRICS Sherpa during the BRICS Stakeholder Roundtable on the 29th January 2018 in Pretoria

30 January 2018

South Africa has now officially assumed the Chairship of BRICS for 2018 and will initiate the Calendar of Events with the hosting of the First BRICS Sherpa Meeting in Cape Town from 4 – 6 February 2018.

It may be recalled that South Africa first hosted the BRICS Summit in e-Thekwini in 2013. This Summit saw the creation of the BRICS Business Council and also initiated the negotiations for the setting up of the BRICS Bank, which was later established as the primary outcome of the 2014 BRICS Summit in Fortaleza, Brazil under the name “New Development Bank” (NDB).

It will also be recalled that South Africa initiated the BRICS Outreach Mechanism when it hosted, on the margins of the e-Thekwini Summit, a BRICS-African Leaders Dialogue Forum Retreat that was attended by 12 African Leaders, representing the AU, NEPAD and the 8 AU Regional Economic Communities (RECs) of Africa. This model has since been replicated by subsequent hosts and South Africa hopes to build further on this initiative in this current Chairship.

China, the BRICS Chair for 2017, ushered in the second ‘Golden Decade’ of BRICS cooperation and the 9th BRICS Summit in Xiamen, 3 to 5 September 2017, adopted the Xiamen Declaration and the Xiamen Plan of Action as its outcomes documents. The Declaration was widely perceived as a balanced and reflective document and indicative of a positive spirit of intra-BRICS collaboration.

South Africa has undertaken to closely align its Chairship of the BRICS Forum in 2018 with that of China in 2017 so as to establish maximum synergy and continuity for BRICS endeavours between the successive Summits.

It is envisaged that the 10th BRICS Summit will take place in Johannesburg from 25 – 27 July 2018.  Both prior to and following the Summit, South Africa will host meetings in accordance with the 2018 BRICS Calendar of Events.  The Calendar comprises meetings scheduled in the three (3) BRICS tracks, notably Track I, which is the Government to Government interaction; Track II, which is the interaction between government affiliated institution, e.g. the state-owned enterprises and business councils; and Track III, which is the interaction with civil society and people-to-people engagement.

The Summit will culminate in the adoption of the “Johannesburg” Declaration that will be negotiated by the Sherpas at the Fourth BRICS Sherpa meeting prior to the Summit.

Other meetings that are scheduled to precede the Johannesburg Summit include: the Second BRICS Sherpa meeting and the Meeting of the BRICS Special Envoys for Middle East and North Africa meeting, both in April, the BRICS Think Tank Council (BTTC) meeting in May, and the meeting of the BRICS Ministers of Foreign Affairs/International Relations in June 2018.    

The 10th BRICS Summit in South Africa also coincides with the centenary celebrations of the first democratically elected President and international icon, Mr Nelson Mandela, and it gives us an opportunity to reflect on the first decade of inter-BRICS cooperation and to chart the way forward for the next decade of BRICS cooperation.

As the 2018 BRICS Summit marks the 10th year of BRICS engagement at the highest diplomatic level, a Retreat with the BRICS Heads of State/Government (only) is also being organised on the margins of the Summit to enable BRICS Leaders to take stock of the past decade of BRICS cooperation and to chart the way forward. We are also considering the BRICS Plus cooperation initiative that was introduced during China’s tenure, for the purpose of further enhancing cooperation with the global community, as well as to take forward the relationship with Africa.

South Africa has identified the following as its priorities for 2018:

  1. Establishment of a Virtual Vaccine Research Platform for Collaboration with BRICS vaccine innovation and development partners
  2. Establishment of a BRICS Gender and Women’s Forum
  3. Establishment of a Working Group on Peacekeeping and 
  4. Leveraging the Strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership as linked to the Fourth Industrial Revolution

 In this regard, the relevant line-function Departments were tasked with the drafting of Concept Notes on the respective priority areas, which will be tabled at the BRICS Sherpa / Sous Sherpa meeting in February 2018 for deliberation by the BRICS partners.    

Additional agenda items for the Sherpa / Sous Sherpa meeting include a briefing by the South African BRICS Business Council and a session on People-to-People Cooperation that will be presented by Civil Society.  

This meeting will set the trend for South Africa’s Chairship and I trust that we will, throughout this year, continue to engage one another to ensure positive messaging around BRICS and the hosting of the 10th BRICS Summit.

I Thank You.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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